[Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Raymond Ibrahim]
On his website, Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again, posts a video of what appear to be Islamic extremists attacking Christian churches in Syria — St. Elias Church and St. Grace Church in the Christian village of Maaloula near Damascus – where villagers still speak Aramaic, the language Christ spoke.
KJL: Do a lot of people still speak Aramaic? How many of their lives are in danger right now?
IBRAHIM: Not a lot, but they are out there, mostly in Syria and eastern regions of Turkey. And in both regions both communities are under attack: in Syria, via U.S.-supported al-Qaeda (whatever else Assad is, he is certainly not a persecutor of his nation’s indigenous Christians), and by the Islamist government of Turkey. For example, the existence of the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world, the fifth-century Mor Gabriel Monastery, inhabited by a few dozen Christians dedicated to learning the monastery’s teachings, including the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Jesus, is at risk. The highest appeals court in Ankara ruled that the land that had been part of the monastery for 1,600 years is not its property, absurdly claiming that the monastery was built over the ruins of a mosque — even though Muhammad was born 170 years after the monastery was built.
KJL: Do we have any idea how many churches have been attacked in Syria and Egypt recently?
IBRAHIM: In Egypt, in just the last few weeks, approximately 80 churches and monasteries and other Christian institutions were attacked, many set aflame and/or destroyed. In Syria, I am not sure of the exact number, but nary a month goes by when I compile my monthly Muslim persecution of Christians series, that an attack on at least one Syrian church or monastery does not take place. A recent report says that a decade after the U.S. “liberated” neighboring Iraq, some 70 churches have been destroyed. That appears to be the fate of the ancient churches of Syria should the Obama administration get its way in Syria.
KJL: Are Syrian Christians better off if the U.S. does not strike against Assad?
IBRAHIM: Absolutely. That is not because Assad is a great guy, but because the alternatives — the same alternatives we saw in Libya and Egypt, that is, the Islamists and jihadis — are hostile to “infidel” Christians, a fact with ample doctrinal, historical, and current-affair proof.
KJL: Why is the debate over “Allahu Akbar” this week worth having?
IBRAHIM: Allahu Akbar is Islam’s most original and distinct war cry, it is always shouted out when Islam scores a victory, most often, a military victory, such as, in this case, shooting missiles at a church. It literally means “my god [Allah] is greater” than your god (hence why shouted in the context of military victory). And hence why it is disgraceful for John McCain to compare it to Christians saying “thank God.” He elevates the war cry of Islam to the level of the evcharistia – the Greek word for “thanksgiving” — and thus implicitly equates the Holy Eucharist with 1,400 years of jihad against Christianity.
KJL: There’s an understandable concern that focusing on such things will feed hatred toward one religion in particular. How do you approach such things in fairness?
IBRAHIM: My only concern is to be fair and speak truth – no more and no less, and regardless of the consequence.
KJL: Is it silly to pray for peace under such circumstances?
IBRAHIM:: Prayer is never silly. But accompanying it with action is obviously better. Let us not forget that when Jesus was slapped by a guard, he did not meekly submit, but questioned him for it, and when St. Paul was persecuted, he did not meekly go along, but invoked his Roman citizenship. The idea that Christians must always “turn the other cheek” — which increasingly is being exploited to make Christians passive — is much more complicated than normally thought, and does not mean Christians should be doormats.
KJL: How can the U.S. help? Specifically the Christians and minorities under fire?
IBRAHIM: It is sad to say, but the days when Mideast Christians called for U.S. help are gone. Today, all that Copts, Christian Syrians, and others want from the U.S. is for it to not get involved — since apparently every time it does get involved it’s to help those who persecute Christians, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and now al-Qaeda in Syria. Watching Mideast media, it’s clear that millions of Egyptians and Syrians — both Christians and moderate Muslims and others — want nothing more from the U.S. than for it to stop supporting terrorists, under the guise of “freedom” and “democracy.”
KJL: Has the world forgotten Egypt as we debate Syria? Has there been any respite for Copts?
IBRAHIM: There’s been more of a respite for Copts in the last few weeks, specifically after the military cleared out the Brotherhood terrorist camps, when MB supporters went on a church-attacking-spree, but sporadic attacks are still very common, especially in the context of kidnapping Copts for ransom and then killing them.
KJL: What’s your advice for members of Congress who have to vote on Syria intervention this week?
IBRAHIM: If the U.S. has a legitimate interest to attack Assad, that’s one thing. But currently, all I’m hearing is talk of chemical weapons, “atrocities,” and “human rights.” If they are truly the reason the U.S. wants to invade Syria, than that’s absurd, since the fact is, from one end of the world to the other, outrageous human-rights abuses — many much worse than the use of chemical weapons — are going on. The real question is not whether Assad used chemical weapons or not, but rather why his doing so would warrant U.S. military intervention — when so many worse human-rights abuses are happening all around the world, each one of which is as well documented as the chemical accusation against Assad is still open to debate. In short, if there is a legitimate case for invading Syria, U.S. leaders, beginning with Obama, need to start making it, and drop the hypocritical rhetoric about “human rights” concerns — which has become nothing short of insulting to one’s intelligence.